Friday, February 14, 2014

Roving Pittsburgher Report - Are You a Good Swan or a Bad Swan? A Review of Swan Lake, PBT's Feb 13th 2014 Performance

Are You a Good Swan or a Bad Swan?
Review of Swan Lake, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Feb. 13th 2014 Performance

From:  Roving Pittsburgher Report and
Written By:  Stephanie Curtice  |  Feb.14, 2014

I have been to many classical performances, yet at this one I found myself as one of those people confused about when to clap. At the symphony, don’t clap between movements. But, at the ballet? I didn’t know. Surprisingly, I had only been to a ballet one other time, as a child when I went for a school field trip to the Nutcracker. This is, of course, another ballet composed by Tchaikovsky. I don’t know why I hadn’t gone more, but I’m glad this was my first “big kid” trip to the ballet. And what better one, than the quintessential Swan Lake? It was beautiful and astonishingly athletic. I was worried that I wouldn’t follow the plot without words or singing, but there was no need. The story line was clear and medium of ballet told it perfectly. I was surprised of how moving the story was. It was truly beautiful.

Julia Erickson
(photo credit: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre)
So, being the New Girl in the Burgh but a Kansas girl at heart, I’d have to ask. “Are you a good swan or a bad swan?” To which Odette would reply, “Oh, I’m not a swan at all… I’m a princess.” One could tell from the opening night crowd at the Benedum, Swan Lake is a classic fairy tale. There were many tutu and crown wearing little girls gazing in aw of the swan princess ballerina story. Very cute!

The ballet begins kind of like Cinderella. The Prince Siegfried (Robert Moore) at the castle, being told by his Queen Mother there will be a ball. And to that ball all eligible princesses shall attend, each in hopes that he will choose her to be his bride. After planning, the Prince and his friends go hunting in the forest. Then taking aim at a beautiful swan, he sees the most amaizing thing. The white swan magically turns into a beautiful maiden named Odette (Julia Erickson). They quickly fall in love and she tells him of her curse.

Julia Erickson, Robert Moore, and swans
(photo credit: Nick Coppula)
The third act begins at the ball where the Prince is presented several princesses, who showcase dances of their native lands. Though he still has Odette in his heart, he is captivated by Odile, whose likeness is of Odette’s but darkly enchanting as a black swan. As he professes his love to Odile (also danced by Julia Erickson), the evil Sorcerer (Nurlan Abougaliev) exposes his disguise and trickery.

After a second intermission, Odette and the other swans share in their sadness of the curse, turn of events, and impending doomed life of forever living as a swan. The Prince arrives to beg for forgiveness and their true love is reaffirmed. Unfortunately, because the Prince was tricked into falling for Odile, Odette is destined to remain a swan forever. The only way to break the curse and kill the evil Sorcerer at this point is Odette’s death. Together in true love, the Prince and Odette leap to there deaths, off of a cliff, into the lake. The end.

Ok, so maybe instead of fairy tale like, its more Romeo and Juliet like, and the “happily ever after” is more suggested to be restricted to the afterlife. But I think that minor detail floated right over the heads of all of the little princesses in the audience.
Yoshiaki Nakano
(photo credit:
Rosalie O'Connor Photography)
Things I did not know about Swan Lake the ballet:
  • There are a few prescribed sets of choreography for the entire show, and the choreography used in this presentation was by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, circa 1895.
  • There are multiple possible endings for the ballet.
  • Originally Odile was just an enchantress, not a swan/girl like Odette
  • The score most frequently used is actually an arrangement by Tchaikovsky’s brother Modeste and Ricarrdo Drigo.
  • The “Swan Theme” was used in Dracula, the 1931 film starring Bela Legos, and The Mummy, the 1932 film starring Boris Karloff.
How you might ask do I know these super informative tidbits? Well, that last one was compliments of my sweet boyfriend, who loves old movies. And for the others, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre posts a very useful resource for called the Audience Production Guide at their website. If you are a fledgling ballet attendee, like myself, I would definitely recommend checking it out before you see the show.

The evening was full of graceful dancing including the signature “fluttering of wing” by the swans, fun and athletic leaps by the Jester (Yoshiaki Nakano), pristine pirouettes by Odette, and festive dances by the hopeful princess guests in the Czardas, Spanish, Neopolitan and Mazurka styles. Every aspect of the dancing and finely played music was engaging. It was a great first experience at the ballet!

Additional Performances:
Friday, Feb 14th  |  8 PM  |  Benedum Hall
Saturday, Feb 15th  |  2 PM  |  Benedum Hall
Saturday, Feb 15th  |  8 PM  |  Benedum Hall
Sunday, Feb 16th  |  2 PM  |  Benedum Hall

By: Stephanie Curtice
Good News and Cultural Reporter
(c) 2014

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